As the project leader you’ve designed and planned your complex retail technology deployment down to the last detail. You have perfected your equipment configurations and installation script. You’ve performed your call aheads and trained your Deployment Technicians. You have worked and reworked your deployment schedule and received sign-off from Store Operations. You’ve even developed a communication plan and set up your daily status reports to report progress.
Finally, the day has come for your first group of installs. All the sudden you start getting calls from the Deployment Technicians with questions. And quickly realize you cannot scale to support them all throughout the project. You didn’t properly design the in-store support that is required with any size retail technology deployment. While there are multiple aspects of deployment support, including the establishment of a Roll-Out Command Center, utilizing Subject Matter Experts, and strategically deploying Team Leads or SWAT Teams, one of the main components of a successful deployment support plan is to utilize a Deployment Help Desk. This ensures you have a fully staffed and flexible support group. One that’s sole focus is providing assistance to the Deployment Technicians and even store personnel if needed. This article is designed to take you through all the different aspects to consider when designing for a successful Deployment Help Desk.
Internal / Outsourced
The first decision is whether the Deployment Help Desk will be handled internally by your existing Help Desk Specialists, by adding temporary Specialists, or outsourced to a third party. If you don’t already have an internal Help Desk, it can be daunting to set up at least a temporary Deployment Help Desk, so I recommend outsourcing. You may be able to use your existing outsourced provider or a provider for these specific services.
Will the Deployment Help Desk be at your retail corporate headquarters, at a vendor’s location, off-shore, on-shore, or near-shore? Depending on the Location will determine how information will be communicated. It’s one thing to be able to walk down the hall to speak with someone versus trying to reach someone on the other side of the world. Communication is key so understand what you are up against.
Call & Ticketing Systems
Do you have an existing Help Desk call and ticketing system that you will utilize for the Deployment Help Desk? If so, you need to ensure it can handle the anticipated increase in call volume. You will also want to make sure the existing ticketing system can handle the types of calls that will be received during the deployment. Are the proper categories and workflows available to utilize? If not, can they be set up and what is the level of effort to achieve?
Hours / Coverage
When establishing hours of operations, consider the various time zones in which Deployment Technicians will be working. And the earliest and latest calls may be received. You will also want to consider other tasks that may be handled by the Help Desk (e.g.: call aheads, delivery tracking, follow up tasks, etc.) and during which hours these tasks need to be performed. This is often driven by stores hours, but make sure you consider when people may potentially call in for assistance. This allows you to determine resources required to properly staff and scale.
Normally you will have Levels of assistance available on a Deployment Help Desk (e.g.: L1, L2, L3, etc.). The higher the Level, the more complex and technical the issue. You will want to define these levels, what types of issues are expected to be handled by each Level, and how the hand off happens between Levels. You also want to determine how issues not able to be supported at any level will be escalated and handled.
After establishing the Support Levels required for the project, you need to determine what education, training, certification, and experience requirements are needed. The best way to do this is to create a job description for each type of resource. Be specific and plan to apply this criterion when selecting Help Desk Specialists.
Next, determine how many of each resource type will be required to adequately staff the Deployment Help Desk. This is not an exact science, especially when getting started, but if you apply valid assumptions and build in the ability to scale up or down as needed, you will be fine. Be sure to consider if the resources will be fully dedicated to the Deployment Project or shared, along with anticipated churn rate over time. It may take several iterations and adjustments to get this right so make sure this is built into your design.
Service Level Agreements
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are used to establish expectations around response times for specific types of events to control costs and keep the Deployment Schedule in line. If you outsource your Deployment Help Desk, be sure all SLAs are specifically documented in the contract in detail, along with the process for SLA measurement, frequency of measurement, and financial penalty for not upholding the SLAs. If you use your internal Help Desk you want to do the same thing, foregoing the financial penalty. SLAs can be unique to the Deployment Project, but at a minimum you should consider the following:
You want to be sure you are specific with the types and frequency of reporting. These reports can be critical for monitoring call volume and ensuring issues are being handled promptly and correctly. Look for trends by correlating specific issues or call volumes to specific times of the day, specific areas of the country, specific Deployment Technicians, etc. By being specific from the start, this will ensure the correct data points are being collected all along the way.
Make no mistake about it—there will be scenarios and events happen that you didn’t plan for. Don’t kill yourself trying to think of everything. Instead create a robust and succinct process for handling those situations where no operating procedure was previously developed. You don’t want the Help Desk Specialists spending too much time spinning their wheels. So make sure they know how to handle the unplanned.
The plan for your Deployment Help Desk is a critical part of your Deployment Design. Be sure to include the Team Members that already support your Store Operations as they bring a great deal of experience and knowledge to the table and can be vital to the design. If you take your time and are thoughtful about all the considerations above, you will be happy with the results when your Deployment takes off at full speed.
With over 30 years of experience in the technology field, Lisa Cook is a thought leader. Specializing in overcoming the challenges associated with complex, multi-site technology deployments, especially with retailers. Her proven approach of designing deployments, rather than just planning them, has led to over 30,000 successful deployments for national and global clients such as Walgreens, Ulta Beauty, Office Max, Walmart, American Eagle, Blockbuster, Chrysler, Simon Property Group, and CBL & Associates.
As Founder of OPL Technologies she is focused on helping Retail Technology Leaders eliminate the challenges of multi-site deployments by creating Deployment Designs that save money and ensure the deployment is done right the first time. She is the author of the recently released book Designing Retail Success: A Blueprint for Designing Retail Technology Deployments.